In a library, user privacy is the right to open inquiry without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinized by others. Confidentiality exists when a library is in possession of personally identifiable information about users and keeps that information private on their behalf. Confidentiality is a library’s responsibility. This responsibility is assumed when library procedures create records such as closed-stack call slips, computer sign-up sheets, registration for equipment or facilities, circulation records, what Web sites were visited, reserve notices, or research notes.
In protecting the privacy rights and the confidentiality rights of library users, librarians, staff, educators, volunteers, and trustees should limit the degree to which personally identifiable information is monitored, collected, disclosed, and distributed while fulfilling their duty to comply with their state’s library confidentiality statute. Librarians involved in training volunteers, new employees, student assistants, or trustees should inform them of the requirements that they not abuse confidentiality and that they protect library users’ rights of privacy.